23.04.2020 - After only one month into her assignment with UNICEF in Fiji, Dale Corcoran had to return to Aotearoa New Zealand due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, for Dale, this didn’t mean the end of her work with UNICEF.
Dale is one of VSA’s returned volunteers who have been able to carry on working for their partner organisation remotely – known as e-volunteering.
“While I am disappointed to not be able to experience life in Fiji, I am able to continue meeting my overall assignment goals and also have the opportunity to see what it really is like to work remotely with an international team,” says Dale.
Dale’s assignment as Knowledge Management and Monitoring Officer with UNICEF Pacific Multi Country Office Child Protection Programme, was focusing on establishing the information and knowledge management system for the 14 Pacific Island Countries and Territories covered by the multi-country office. While the work she is now doing is still in the knowledge management field, the focus has shifted to supporting the emergency response.
“I’ve been working with the UNICEF team to build a suite of COVID-19 specific resources that support child protection during the pandemic. In the current emergency with lockdowns, school closures, and the increased stress on families, children are more vulnerable to violence, abuse and exploitation, as well as having to deal with their own fears and anxieties.
“There is so much information out there right now. My job is to assist the Child Protection experts to screen and organise a central and easily accessible document library of relevant material that can be used to ensure that protection of children is included in COVID-19 responses taking place in each country. Once the material is collected, the UNICEF team can work with their child protection counterparts in the various Pacific Islands to contextualise and translate it based on the intended audience.”
For Dale, it has been an opportunity to support the UNICEF team during a difficult time. “The team is really busy at the moment – not just with COVID-19 but also with the devastation of Cyclone Harold.”
While working remotely has had its challenges, the technology has worked really well for Dale. “I am meeting with the team and others using Zoom and Skype, and we will often use WhatsApp to talk or text each other when we need to deal with something quickly. There have certainly been a few issues with the technology, but we are able to find ways to deal with it,” says Dale.
“The time I had in Fiji, though only a month, proved really valuable. I was able to physically meet my colleagues (including the all-important IT people) and start building strong relationships. I think e-volunteering is working especially well for me having had the advantage of meeting and interacting with the team first.”
Although the transition to e-volunteering has worked well for Dale, it has been a time of uncertainty and change.
“It was challenging to have to return home on such short notice. I really appreciated the support of Claire, our VSA Programme Manager, who is doing an amazing job of being there for us and communicating on all the steps along the way.”